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Low-Power Broadcasters Seek Full-Power Carriage

Low-power and Class A television broadcasters have long argued against FCC rules that limit the obligation of cable systems to carry them.

Facing a potential crisis from the February 2009 end of full-power analog TV and the proliferation of set-top converter boxes that do not receive analog signals, the Community Broadcasters Association is making a new pitch at the FCC to gain cable carriage.

CBA told the commission that by classifying Class A and possibly low-power stations as full-power commercial stations, it could force cable operators to carry the stations without needing any fresh laws from Congress. That would involve, among other things, putting Class A stations on the Table of Allotments. As for the power levels, the two categories overlap, with low-power and Class A stations operating from 3 kW to 150 kW, and full-power stations operating between 100 kW and 5,000 kW.

In any event, CBA said in a filing to the commission July 30, it’s the FCC, not Congress, that makes the rules on what’s low-power and what’s full-power commercial.

CBA said current rules restrict mandatory carriage of LPTV and Class A stations to very few instances in rural areas, and it said the importance of cable carriage to its members is “obvious and critical.”

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association countered in its filings that the FCC has no such authority to confer mandatory carriage to the Class A stations and that doing so would add must-carry stations to channel lineups already crowded with must-carry stations and would reduce media diversity.